The fatal I-44 accident that killed two in August 2010.
By Ann Rubin
Pacific, MO (KSDK) - Federal investigators released new information tonight about a 2010 crash involving a pickup truck, tractor trailer, and two St. James school buses. They now say the 19-year-old driver of the pick-up was texting at the time.
The crash certainly changed St. James student Emily Perona's life and her outlook. Now she hopes it will change others by illustrating the dangers of texting and driving.
Perona has always been an athlete, but the accident nearly changed that.
It was August of 2010 when a tractor-trailer, a pick-up truck and two school buses collided on Interstate 44.
While federal investigators have long said inattention was a factor in the crash, they now add that one driver 19-year-old Daniel Schatz was texting at the time.
"It's just kinda sad because I personally don't think texting is very important," said Perona.
Perona's pelvis was crushed in the crash, requiring surgery and months of physical therapy and she wasn't alone.
A total of 38 people were injured.
One student, 15-year-old Jessica Brinker, died at the scene. So did Daniel Schatz.
"Everyone's lives were changed forever, whether they were injured or not," said Perona's mother, Loretta.
She adds that the changes for them were profound.
She says the crash brought them, "Closer as a family, but also more aware. When you are behind the wheel, you need to have your attention on the road."
"Whenever I'm driving I keep my phone off and to the side because nothing is more important than keeping your eyes on the road and just staying focused," said Emily Perona.
For now Perona's focus is on basketball, though she also competed at the state level in cross country this year.
She says her message isn't about placing blame, it's about learning from what happened.
That's what federal investigators want too.
They say the problem of texting and driving is just getting worse, despite many states banning the practice.
"Just put your phones down and focus on what you're doing because you not only have your lives but if there's other people around you, they're in your hands when you're behind the wheel," said Perona.
The National Transportation Safety Board will meet Tuesday to hear the full results of the investigation and to make safety recommendations.